A (Very Hot) Day in Death Valley National Park

Oh boy, this place is hooooot. We went at the end of April and temperatures were already in the 100s. But it was still a fun trip. The thing about Death Valley is that pictures don’t really do it justice. I promise, it’s more interesting to be there in person. The majority of the highlights are on the east side of the park, though, so you won’t have much reason to venture farther in unless you 1) will be there for more than one day and can spend Day 2 exploring Scotty’s Castle Road or 2) have never seen sand dunes before, in which case it’s worth driving out to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes:

Hilly sand dunes

Alas, my family only had a day, but we still got our fill of hot desert goodness. First, there’s Zabriskie Point, which might be the prettiest overlook of the entire park (or as pretty as a desert can be):

Yellow and brown mountain peaks

There’s another overlook called Dantes View that’s pretty cool, but the drive to get there is a bit long. It gives you a great overhead view of Badwater Basin, though:

Looking down at the flat, white basin

After you’ve seen enough, you can drive down Badwater Road for more up-close scenery. My favorite stop on this road was the Golden Canyon Trail. There are actually several trails in this area, some of which will take you all the way back to Zabriskie Point! Depending on the heat, you probably won’t want to hike very far in, however. Most people only go to Red Cathedral before turning around, but my family and I didn’t even make it that far. Nonetheless, the views were fun:

A canyon with tall, rocky, yellow walls

I also really enjoyed exploring Devils Golf Course. This isn’t a hike; you can see the “golf course” from the parking lot. But you’ll want to walk a little ways out among the rocks, kneel down, and just… listen. The salt crystals in the rocks audibly pop as they expand and contract under the heat. It’s a very cool experience.

Small, jagged rocks covered with salt crystals

The only other time you’ll need to get out of the car on this road is if you’re gonna walk along the Badwater Basin. The beginning of this salt flat walk isn’t terribly exciting, but push on and you’ll be rewarded with some mesmerizing patterns that appear in the ground near the end of the trail:

Flat, white ground with octogonal patterns in it

On your way back, driving north on Badwater Road, don’t forget to take the Artists Drive detour. This scenic route offers some extra views of the more colorful mountains that reside in Death Valley, including a spot aptly called Artists Palette:

A mountain with shades of yellow, brown, green, and red

And that wraps up our day in Death Valley. Now if we could just find a shady spot to have lunch…

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